Seven Irish researchers score millions in ERC grants

23 Nov 2023

Dr Michael Monaghan and Dr Kate Maguire from Trinity College Dublin. Image: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

A total of 308 researchers received €627m from the latest batch of ERC Consolidator Grants, with multiple Irish researchers included.

Researchers from multiple Irish universities have received millions from the European Research Council (ERC) to fuel their research projects.

The ERC has awarded a total of €627m in grants to hundreds of researchers to help them pursue their most promising scientific ideas. These Consolidator Grants are part of the EU’s Horizon Europe programme.

A total of 308 researchers were awarded grants out of more than 2,100 candidates. These grants will support projects across research sectors, such as engineering, life sciences and humanities.

“It is disappointing that we cannot support every deserving project simply due to budget constraints; around 100 proposals identified as excellent in our rigorous evaluation will be left unfunded,” said ERC president Prof Maria Leptin.

“Can Europe afford to let such talent go unrealised? We need to collectively advocate for increased investment in research and innovation.”

Irish researchers

Two of the successful applicants are associate professors Dr Kate Maguire and Dr Michael Monaghan from Trinity, who were awarded a combined total of €4.6m to pursue their research projects.

Maguire’s project – CosmicLeap – aims to create a complete census on the multiple ways that white dwarfs can explode by mapping observations to their explosion physics. It is hoped that this will define new precision samples for cosmology and help determine the rate and contribution of white-dwarf explosions to the origin of the elements.

Monaghan’s PiezoMac project aims to develop a new platform of biomaterials that can treat patients with heart muscle injury after a heart attack. This project aims to improve the quality of life for these patients and involves a multidisciplinary approach including biomedical engineering, computer science and immunology research.

“Winning an ERC grant is an acknowledgement that their projects are not only scientifically excellent, but will break new ground for their disciplines, illuminating the unknown,” said Trinity provost Dr Linda Doyle.

“At the frontiers of physics and engineering respectively, both researchers are expanding the boundaries of scientific knowledge and what we understand about the natural world.”

Meanwhile, UCD’s Prof Niamh Nowlan and associate professor Dr Aidan Regan received a total of €4m in ERC funding for their two research projects.

A woman and a man standing together with trees and autumn leaves in the background. They are researchers from University College Dublin.

Prof Niamh Nowlan and Dr Aidan Regan. Image: Tommy Dickson

Nowlan’s Rezone project will explore how cartilage in our bodies forms after birth and investigate ways to reactivate those processes in adults, in order to help patients that suffer from joint pain.

Regan’s project – called Democracy Challenged – will investigate why concentrated capital and wealth inequality are a problem for democracy. It will also look at the role of corporate tax avoidance and law in enabling these processes.

Other successful Irish applicants include Prof Michael Quayle from the University of Limerick, Dr Ciara Murphy from the RCSI and Prof Ines Thiele from the University of Galway.

In September, the ERC awarded €628m in Starting Grants to 400 researchers from across Europe, which included seven recipients at University College Cork, UCD, the University of Galway and Trinity.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic